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NBCUniversal’s Peacock launches today: Here’s what you need to know

Yes, another streaming service.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
April 15, 2020
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NBC's Peacock streaming service is launching now in "preview."
Comcast

NBC’s streaming service is finally here: Peacock, the Comcast-owned platform that will be home to The Office (and much of NBC’s vast catalog), the (now-postponed) Tokyo Olympics and a lineup of new original content, is starting to roll out, though most people will have to wait awhile before it’s available.

The company is launching an “early preview”  beginning today, April 15th, for Comcast subscribers who have an X1 or Flex set-top box. If you’re among the “millions” of Comcast customers who meet that criteria, Peacock should be available within the next two weeks, according to NBC.

Everyone else, however, will have to wait another three months, until July 15th, when Peacock will have its full US rollout. At that point, the service will be available via its mobile apps, website and “popular connected-TV platforms,” though the company hasn’t shared specified device support yet.

The Tiers

If you are curious about Peacock, you have a few different options to choose from, depending on what kind of shows you’re after and how much you’re willing to pay. NBC’s model is similar to Hulu, with different subscription and advertising levels.

Peacock Free is a free, ad-supported version with a more limited set of shows that will launch in July. It includes “next-day” access to broadcast shows, “classic” series, early viewing of late-night talk shows, as well as some movies, news, and Olympics coverage. A limited amount of original content will be available, as well as a handful of “curated” channels. 

Peacock Premium, the version rolling out now in “preview,” includes all of  the above, as well as entire seasons of Peacock original series, dozens of shows from NBC’s library, and some current and older seasons of Telemundo shows. It also comes with full  access to Peacock’s sports coverage, which includes the Olympics, Ryder Cup and Premier League matches, and an NFL Wild Card game. Peacock Premium also includes ads and is $4.99/month. (Comcast subscribers will get the ad-supported version of Peacock Premium for free as part of their cable package.)

Notably, NBC promises ad load will max out at “five minutes of commercials or less per hour.” So even if you’re on the free tier, you should still see fewer commercials than you would on a typical broadcast channel. 

But if you really can’t stand any commercials at all, NBC is also offering an ad-free version of Peacock Premium for $9.99/month. The content is the same as the $4.99 tier, it just doesn’t have ads. 

The Content

As with any streaming platform, Peacock’s success will hinge on its content. The good news is that it has most of NBC’s back catalog to draw from. And Peacock will be the streaming home for popular shows, like Law and Order (and its spinoffs SVU and Criminal Intent), 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Rec and The Office. 

Noticeably absent from that list, however, are two of NBC’s biggest hits: Seinfield and Friends, which are currently claimed by other streaming platforms (Netflix and HBO Max, in this case). That said, if Peacock is going for the nostalgia factor, it still has plenty to work with. The company also has reboots of Saved by the Bell, Punky Brewster and Battlestar Galactica planned as part of its lineup of originals, which will start to launch later this year.

Peacock's lineup draws heavily from NBC's back catalog.
Comcast

Another potential draw for Peacock is its sports lineup, which includes the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Premier League matches, the Ryder Cup and the NFL’s Wild Card Playoff game (NBC’s regional sports offerings aren’t included). The catch, of course, is that all of these events are currently postponed or on hold due to the coronavirus, so NBC likely won’t be nabbing any new subscribers on the back of its sports offerings any time soon.

In terms of original content, Peacock doesn’t have nearly as much to offer as competing services. In fact, at launch, there won’t be any originals available, and its initial lineup is decidedly thin compared to those that have already been doing this for a few years. 

As we’ve previously noted, NBC is mainly banking on nostalgia  — with reboots of classic show and brand new series from familiar faces like Amy Poehler (soccer comedy Division One), Mindy Kaling (Expecting) and Tina Fey (Girls5Eva) — though there are a few other intriguing titles, like Hatching Twitter, a drama based on Nick Bilton’s book chronicling the company’s founding. 

How does it compare? 

At this point, you might be wondering: Do I really need another streaming service? The short answer is it really depends on what you plan on watching. If you’re more interested in originals, you’ll likely be disappointed, especially in the beginning, as many series won’t even be ready until 2021. 

But as a free service, Peacock could be a good complement for cord cutters who miss some broadcast TV. You won’t be able to watch shows live  — and there will be commercials — but the mix of new shows and some older series could be enough to draw in new viewers. 

What’s less clear is if it’s fuller, paid offering will be able to compete with rivals like Netflix and HBO, which have the advantage of having their own big-name series and claim some of NBC’s biggest hits.  

Update 4/17 1:12PM ET: This post originally states Big Bang Theory was an NBC property. It is actually produced by CBS. We regret the error.

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